By: Mark Stapp
Master of Real Estate Development program
ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business
President Barack Obama’s speech this month in Phoenix created another heightened public discussion about the housing market. In some respects, it was more of the same conversation about a complex topic that unfortunately, for the most part, has lacked a human element.
Most of the time, the public discussion about the housing market is about how it is improving — or not, in some places — as well as its impact on our economy. It is widely accepted that a recovered and healthy housing market is critical to the entire U.S. economic recovery.
We hear continued calls to reform the housing market, banking, the mortgage process and government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We also hear calls to require more private investment in the mortgage market and to prosecute executives involved in mortgage fraud.
Many housing advocates remain upset by the foreclosure scandal, and stories swirl about illegal foreclosures and servicers demolishing the wrong homes. Attention is also focused on investors buying up homes, tight supply and tight underwriting standards, making it difficult for homeowners to buy homes, as well as a lack of skilled labor to help meet the increased demand to build new ones.
A community bedrock
News reporters parse these aspects and ask categorical questions about the market. However, housing is a complex industry, and the market is simply the manifestation of how the industry is working. It is like a fine watch with many synchronized mechanisms that allow it to function effectively and efficiently.
Unlike other manufacturing industries, the housing industry is also the bedrock of sustainable communities. Housing makes up both a local community and personal assets, representing a significant part of a community’s built capital. We need quality, affordable housing for a vibrant local economy.
However, it is difficult to change this industry and rid it of fraud, abuse, greed and inefficiency while still ensuring it can keep originating the high volume of mortgages it now creates. Like a watch, the industry is designed to move only in one direction — creating new mortgages so supply can be absorbed.
This industry does not work well at fixing problems. It is not designed to deal with individuals, their problems and their stories. The system has no empathy and no sympathy. It can’t work backward when communities and individuals have problems. Private business exists to make a profit, and profit is made in the creation, at the transaction, not fixing problems that emerge after the creation.
A long-term fix that deals with inevitable economic downturns will mean building empathy into the process, and that will not happen without regulatory involvement that enforces a public purpose and provides an efficient, transparent, equally available system to deal with individuals and communities after the mortgage has been created, packaged, sold, sliced, diced and given to an unimpassioned third party to collect payments.
Avoiding the next crisis
The president’s speech included a wide array of programs, initiatives and actions. These represent the complexity of the industry and the problem. The entire industry is not just about making money on the creation; it’s also about people’s lives — and our lives change, circumstances change, and the economy changes. The reason we have a crisis of this magnitude is that the industry does not work backward, so to avoid another crisis, maybe changes should consider how we deal with individuals and how we include an opportunity for empathy throughout the process.
The recession did not just penalize those who took out mortgages they could not afford. The recession was also a sucker punch to many in the middle of life and many toward retirement. Whatever you had in play through the honest work ethic taught from a previous generation all of a sudden was turned on an axis. It was unfamiliar territory and required assistance that was counter to what the industry or our society was designed to provide.
Greed must not be the leading business force for our sustainable future as a global leader. We, as a society, should want to create a healthy, balanced capitalist market to accommodate whatever shifts occur for all concerned to ride the waves of the always changing markets.
This article first appeared in The Arizona Republic’s op-ed section on August 15, 2013.
By: Lori McConville
Executive Vice President, The Caliber Group
In 2012 Valley Forward (now Arizona Forward) decided to expand its mission statewide. This decision supported the organization’s growth after 43 years of success in the Phoenix area. The organization needed a new name – Arizona Forward – and brand to help launch the statewide presence. The Caliber Group, based in Tucson with offices in Phoenix and Charleston, had the expertise Arizona Forward was seeking to position the organization and develop a new brand.
Caliber delved into the organization’s past and present and also examined its future goals in order to fully understand what it was Arizona Forward needed to be successful. Caliber President Kerry Stratford worked with her team to come up with an entire business package that included a logo, launch assessment, updated web presence, social media, branding and other online tools.
The process was highly collaborative and because Arizona Forward had such a clear vision, creating the logo was a smooth process. The organization had an abstract message – one that isn’t always simple to translate into a visual. But key messages, such as growth, development and the environment were ever present and it became clear in the branding process that the logo needed to reflect those components.
Caliber created just that – a logo that clearly shows what Arizona Forward is most focused on: a balance between the built environment and environmental sustainability.
Stakeholders and the organization’s board were pleased with the logo and feel it clearly defines the organization’s future goals. A postcard announcing the new look was also a big success and was awarded a Tucson Addy Award.
Arizona Forward’s Chief Executive Officer and President, Diane Brossart, said the process with Caliber was extremely pleasant and successful. “We never felt like we were off base. The Caliber team was really in tune with what we were trying to achieve. The logo was dead-on and the colors perfect.”
Caliber continues to work with Arizona Forward and is currently redesigning its website as well as designing an electronic newsletter template, event presentation boards and membership materials.
The methodical rollout has been very well received and Arizona Forward’s email inboxes are constantly full with inquires from new sources interested in learning more about its mission. It’s exciting and daunting, Brossart admits, but it’s worth it because it’s Our Environmental Legacy, Your Sustainable Future.
By: Bill Wiley
Director, Maricopa County Air Quality Department
Despite the warm temperatures outside, Oct. 1 marked the beginning of winter air pollution season in Maricopa County. Throwing a log on the fire might seem a long way off, but as the holidays draw near, the desire to gather ‘round a fire with family and friends will grow, so Maricopa County residents may want to think twice before they throw that log on the fire.
When levels of particulate pollution are expected to reach unhealthy levels, the Maricopa County Air Quality Department issues a “No Burn Day” advisory. Restrictions last for a 24-hour period, starting at midnight, and include a ban on woodburning activity in fireplaces, fire pits and open outdoor fires. Aside from taking a chance on getting a fine for up to $250, the purpose of the No Burn Day restriction is to avoid adding pollution to our air when the forecast suggests air quality will approach or exceed the federal health standard.
State and county agencies measure PM-10 and PM-2.5 which are extremely small solid particles and liquid droplets found circulating in the air. PM, or particulate matter, comes from either combustion (cars, industry, woodburning) or dust stirred up into the air. High levels of PM are typically created when the air is especially stagnant or especially windy. PM-10 stands for particulate matter measuring 10 microns or less. PM-2.5 stands for particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less. To put this in perspective, one strand of human hair is 70-100 microns in size.
Once you’re aware of the forecast, do your part to avoid adding to the pollution in our air. By taking small, simple steps every day, we can all make a difference. For example:
It is up to each and every person living within Maricopa County to take responsibility to adhere to these restrictions when in effect, but if you think someone is in violation of these restrictions, you may report an air quality problem or polluter at any time by calling the Maricopa County Air Quality Department at (602) 372-2703, submitting a report through our Clean Air Make More mobile app, or filing online at www.maricopa.gov/aq under the Contact Us/Report a Violation tab.
By: George Grombacher
This place has canyon walls that make you question your place in existence…walls that give evidence of the power of time and water.
The creek water is naturally infused with lime, making it so clear and blue; pictures just can not do it justice.
One of the hikes presents a descent which brings your mortality into question (particularly if heights are not your favorite — check out Mooney Falls), the rewards being one breathtaking waterfall after another. Havasupai is a trip worth making.
Shopping at REI to get ready for the trip, I felt like a kid in a candy store…that place is awesome. I can’t believe I was so unaware of all the stuff I didn’t really need, but bought anyway.
We drove to Peach Springs the night before and the final 60 mile drive to the trail head almost felt like I was driving through a deer farm and was reminded of why Bambi is one of the deadliest animals. Drive slowly because they like to surprise humans.
When we set out at 6 a.m., the hike is a piece of cake. That’s because heading in, it’s all downhill. Reality sets in when you realize you’ve got to go back out. We spent two nights and I believe that’s the right amount. One night would not be enough and three may be too many. We set our alarms for 3 a.m. in order to avoid getting cooked by the sun on the way out, which proved to be a wise decision.
The entire experience reminded me of the incredible, dynamic beauty of our state which is sometimes forgotten as I commute south on the 51 in the mornings, into the brown cloud occasionally hanging over the city.
As someone who has researched and invested in alternative energy, I know how important a time this is. We have incredible and brilliant technology available to us, from wind and solar to algae and geothermal. Frankly, it all makes my head spin. Balancing the costs with the effects on the climate and on polar bears, it’s challenging to know which direction is the right one.
I intend to make the Valley my home for many years to come and that’s why I am a member of Valley Forward, so I can be a part of the conversation. Maintaining our state’s dynamic beauty will require as many of us as possible.
By: Linda Cohen
CEO, The Caliber Group
It is essential for brands to monitor their online sentiment and evaluate the consumption patterns of their audiences. Social media use steadily shows an upward trend in popularity, but is it right for your company or clients? Have you explored the factors communication managers should consider when making the decision to engage in this dynamic marketing medium? Do you know your brand’s online sentiment? Do you know who is talking about your brand and what they are reporting? Is your overall marketing strategy evolving with technology and trends?
Most companies have some level of an online presence, whether they are managing it or not. Consumer reviews are more abundant than ever before thanks to the wide array of social media channels. People are not afraid to share their opinions and experiences with a brand with their social families.
How is your brand managing this communication overload? To interact with customers, some simply send a monthly or quarterly eblast with information, while others actively engage via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, frequent eblasts and constant website updates. Some brands develop their own YouTube channels to broadcast video messages to their audiences. So is it information overload or is this the new norm? How do you know where and how to manage your resources? The answer is social media monitoring.
Consider these statistics:
- More than 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old and considered a “millennial”
- 96% of Millennials (ages 12 to 32) have joined a social network
- 93% of social media users believe an organization should use social media
- 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are linked to company-generated content
- Consumers are five times more likely to trust a consumer testimonial vs. a company’s advertisement
Based on these statistics, it’s highly likely that your customers and competitors are already engaged in social media. Being left out of the conversation could be a costly oversight. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution as all social media tools are not appropriate for every company. Just like any other marketing strategy, continual research and careful planning are necessary to execute a successful social media campaign.
Wikipedia defines social media as the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Information is circulated on a constant, real-time basis, providing greater insight into brand loyalty, sentiments, feedback and mentions. This means that you cannot create a plan and stick it on a shelf. It is a living, breathing part of your brand’s identity and requires adjustments and evolution based on your brand’s consumption patterns. There are countless monitoring and analytics tools to choose from that must be deployed to track success rate of social media tactics.
Consider the following before you begin:
- What is your brand’s current online sentiment? This requires research and monitoring, but is an essential evaluation to determine the best social media strategy required. Who are your most influential followers and how do you mobilize them to be evangelists for your brand?
- What is your message? Do you have timely, regular and interactive content to share with your audience or are you using social media as a broadcast channel to disseminate your message?
- Determine your company voice and social media policy. It is vital to establish who is empowered to speak on behalf of the company and the guidelines necessary to act as your voice.
- Listen and respond. Be responsible for answering inquiries or complaints in a timely fashion. The key to social media is the speed and ease of the give and take of information. If you do not have the resources (i.e. staff time or budget for an external consultant) to maintain your company dialogue, engaging in social media inconsistently could be damaging to your brand.
- Set your measurable goals. How will you define success? Increased traffic to your site, the number of ‘likes’ on your company Facebook page, the number of Twitter followers, the number of video ‘shares’ on YouTube, ‘Pins’ on Pinterest, etc.? The key is to focus on quality of engagement over numbers.
Social media should be approached as any other traditional marketing campaign, as it is a highly influential medium and requires the same strategic planning to be effective. Develop your strategy and let that lead you to the appropriate platform.